Category Archives: Indigenous Slavery

Decolonizing My Family Tree: Revisting Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo

This blogpost is dedicated to my father, Antonio Vega Noboa, who never knew much about his Taino ancestry or his Bonilla family and to my cousin Maddy and my Bonilla Quiles family who still live in Yauco. Our extended family has never left Yauco,  the land of The Taino. We continue to honor our Indigenous ancestor, Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo, who will always be our Puerto Rican Patriot.

 

Maddy and Me

This blogpost is a corrective update to my two prior blogposts on Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo (see Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo: Our Puerto Rican Patriot . 

The Bonilla Family of Yauco & Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo

When I first met Maddy in 2014,  she told me the oral history of her 2nd great-grandfather, Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo. She received an oral history passed down by her mother and relayed that to me during our first conversation. After a 10+ year search to find the maternal surname of my 2nd great-grandfather, I was overjoyed to have been linked with a 3rd cousin who had his maternal surname on her tree and who AncestryDNA linked as having the same 2nd great-grandfather. As a newbie to Puerto Rican genealogy and to genetic genealogy, I wrongly assumed that Maddy and I shared the same 2nd great-grandfather and that the info that our other Bonilla DNA cousins from Yauco had on their trees was correct. I added their info to my tree which stated that Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo’s father was Marcos Bonilla Bonilla who was born in Coamo, Puerto Rico. The link to Marcus Bonilla Bonilla was incorrect. Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo is no doubt part of our own Bonilla Family of Yauco, but has no direct link to the Bonilla Family of Coamo as of today.  As someone who teaches genealogy and basic genetic genealogy classes,  I have no problem admitting that I made a couple of common genealogy mistakes almost 5 years ago. What can I say? I am human. It is a lesson others can learn from when researching their own family trees. As it now stands, everything has been corrected on my family tree and has been shared with Maddy and her family. I have also removed the section of my first Juan Eusebio blogpost to delete all references to Coamo.

I want to make it clear that this blogpost only corrects my relationship status  to Juan Eusebio which is that of a cousin. He is not my 2nd great-grandfather, but he IS Maddy’s 2nd great-grandfather and we both have  indisputable genetic ties to him. DNA does not lie. #FactsMatter

This is the oral history that my cousin Maddy relayed to me back in 2014:

When I was a little girl my mom (Hilda Quiles Oliveras) told my siblings and me the story of our 2x grandfather’s legend, of his torture, and murder, and how the people from Yauco PR , who lived near the cemetery, could hear my mom’s great granddad moan “Ayudame (Help me).” Some people in town would also say that they saw a man hanging from a tree. That story would scared me. I was about 11 years old. As I grew older I asked my mom if the story was a tale that she would tell to scare us! My mom said “No, my great granddad was murdered, stabbed, and they cut his genitals and stuffed it in his mouth.

Before I started my family tree in 2001, I asked my mom about the story. I thought it was a story told to children on a Halloween night so I asked my mom again if the story she told us was true and she said, “Yes it really happened.  It was true!” I asked my mom for more details. My mom had a stroke in 1997  and it was difficult for her to speak, but her memory was intact and she was able to tell the story as it happened to her great grandfather back then.

My mom passed away in 2013. May she rest in peace. My curiosity as to what happened to my 2nd great grandfather became an obsession. I called my maternal aunt Lucy Quiles Amil in Yauco and she gave me more details of our abuelo. My aunt Lucy told me to Google La Leyenda de la Guasima!  I did a Google search and also found a reference on Ancestry.com of the legend…

As someone who only had my paternal grandparents’ names on my family tree until 2013, when another DNA cousin, Luis Rivera,  fleshed out the paternal side of my tree (See On Discovering My Boricua Branches), finding my DNA cousins was a blessing. That I could find a 3rd cousin who lived close to me, and who was related to me on my Bonilla line, immediately bonded us. Maddy’s oral history rang true.  The story seemed like it would be something that people would pass down. It was unforgettable and haunting. The physical violence that our ancestor was subjected to was clearly a message aimed at silencing people in his community—many of whom were of Taino and African descent.

After speaking with Maddy and googling Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo’s name, I came across the book Asesinato Politico. The book, published 50 years earlier, was in the collection of the New York Public Library and I went there the very next day to read it. It confirmed our Bonilla Quiles oral history and added even more heartbreaking details. This book is the closest thing we have to a first person account as it was written by the son of his best friend.

 

A little over a year later after I wrote my first blogpost, I went to Puerto Rico and filmed an AncestryDNA commercial that was aimed at telling the story of DNA cousins who met via an AncestryDNA test. Before I went, I reached out to yet another Puerto Rican DNA cousin, Luis Ramos, a well-known Taino and Indigenous advocate in New York City and Puerto Rico, to advise me on how to perform a libation ceremony for our ancestor, Juan Eusebio Bonilla  Salcedo. I  performed the ceremony side by side with my Bonilla Quiles cousins and two other cousins, Ralph and Theresa Delgado-Tossas. We honored our Puerto Rican Patriot and let him know that we would keep saying his name and tell the world about him. That was and is our moral imperative as his descendants and kin.

Descendants and kin of Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo, 2016, Yauco, Puerto Rico

On Resurrecting Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo after 125 years…

The genealogy research I do is all about telling the stories of ancestors who have been erased from the historical record and from public memory. I do not only engage in “begat begat genealogy” where names are gathered on a tree which are divorced from historical context beyond a date. I “dig deep” to resurrect the lives of my ancestors and to tell their true stories within their own local historical context. When I read about Juan Eusebio’s torture and assassination, I cried and still do. While I was very familiar with the treatment of Indigenous people worldwide, it never occurred to me that this would have happened to someone related to me in the not too distant past. I still struggle with this horrific event.  Processing historic trauma is never easy. Self-care for genealogists is indeed a MUST.

We have a fundamental belief that there is no separation between our ancestors who transitioned before us and those of us who are still here on Earth. It seemed as though Juan Eusebio was begging us to  resurrect his life story, to tell the truth about who he was and what he stood for,  along with asking us to remind others of how the Taino people continued to resist centuries after colonization. Resurrecting Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo from the pages of Asesinato Politico , and from historic oblivion was our way, as descendants and kin, of paying homage to him. No one else can make that claim as we brought him back to life, figuratively speaking. #FactsMatter  #CiteBlackWomen #CitePuertoRicanWomen 

Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: Ellen Fernandez-Sacco to The Rescue

For this blogpost —- a first for me —- I asked my cousin-homie-friend, Ellen Fernandez-Sacco,  to help me understand why it has been so hard for me to locate my exact relationship to Juan Eusebio. I am no expert in Puerto Rican genealogy and never claimed to be. There are multiple laters of first-cousin and uncle-niece marriage in my Bonilla line over centuries with not just my direct Bonilla family line, but with all the associated families who married into it (e.g., The Vega, Rodriguez, Figueroa, and Velez families). Because of this, I reached out to Ellen for some clarity and for her to elucidate some of the issues I have to deal with that have impacted my ability to pinpoint how I am related to Juan Eusebio. What is important to remember is that Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo’s surnames are those that pop up on my tree AND with my DNA cousins over and over again. In addition, there are numerous Bonilla families in Susua Alta, and surrounding barrios and Sabana Grande, that are clearly collateral relatives of my ancestors. The Bonillas of Yauco include the following surnames: Bonilla Bonilla, Bonilla, Figueroa, Bonilla Limardo, Bonilla Lopez, Bonilla Martinez, Bonilla Morales, Bonilla Quiles, Bonilla Rivera, Bonilla Rodriguez, Bonilla Salcedo, Bonilla Sanchez, Bonilla Torres, Bonilla Vega, Bonilla Velez, and Bonilla Zambrana. Please note that future blogposts will be forthcoming that will show the interrelatedness of all these Yauco Bonilla families.

Ellen has gifted me with her knowledge of Puerto Rican genealogy and Puerto Rico in general. Her own work dovetails with mine. We are both concerned with researching ancestral family histories’ that have been suppressed, silenced, and/or erased and the issue of how resistance is manifested by those who may be considered to be powerless. As women genealogists of color, we are also  conscious of how our own  identities have emerged as a result of our ancestors being survivors of the triple horrors of genocide, colonization, and slavery. Though both of us descend from European colonizers, slaveholders, and immigrants, we have chosen to focus more on our African and Indigenous ancestors, the ones whose histories remain largely unknown. That being said, Ellen truly has a unique voice of her own that incorporates on many levels the consciousness of diverse groups of people considered to be “forgotten by history.”

Dr. Ellen Fernandez-Sacco

Ellen has almost 20 years of genealogy research experience behind her. She has her own blog, Latino Genealogy and Beyond. She has also published articles on Puerto Rican genealogy in Hereditas, journal of the Sociedad Puertorriquena de Genealogia, and this year, has a two part article in the California Genealogical Society’s The Nugget, first published in The Baobab Tree: Journal of the  African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC); previously on the California Genealogical Society blog. She has a book chapter on the history of Mundillo in the collection Women and Needlework, thanks to a Senior Latino Smithsonian Fellowship. Her articles can also be found on Academia.edu. Ellen is one of the panelists, along with myself, on BlackProGen LIVE, a YouTube genealogy channel dedicated to teaching others how to research their ancestors throughout the African Diaspora. Moreover, Ellen has served as  Past President, President, Vice President, and Board Member of the California Genealogical Society , is the founder and co-moderator of Sociedad Ancestros Mocanos on Yahoo! Groups and Facebook since June 2005, is an enrolled member of the United Confederation of Taino People, and belongs to the Yukayeke Guayniana. Finally, she is a graduate of ProGen 16 and ProGen Law (beta).

In her analysis of  The Bonilla Family of Yauco, Ellen will discuss the various issues inherent in Puerto Rican genealogy among which include the issues of who is included and excluded in historical records, women & war, the classification of the Taino people within the  “Pardo libre” racial/ethnic category,  levels of endogamy in small, rural communities, the political economic context of Yauco in the 18th and 19th century, and other topics as well. Ellen also has a way of succinctly pointing out the things that make Puerto Rican and African and Indigenous genealogy research difficult.  I am happy that she embraced the task at hand 1000% as you will see. 

So, thank you, prima Ellen, for being you and for showing a keen interest in documenting the lives of my Bonilla Family of Yauco, and especially, of our own Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo!

 

A Bonilla Family Tree: Context, Resistance & Reading Indigeneity

Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, Ph.D.

Simply searching for that linear connection to conquistadors or mainstream historical figures can sideline aspects of research.

If that’s the case, there’s so much you’re missing.  As a result of not looking, a lot gets left on the table. Why is genealogy and family history so important? Taken on a personal level, genealogy and historical study enables one to open that identification up, learn about the erasure of people from history, how privilege works and the importance of context. There is something to be said for the weight of context in doing this research.  I want to thank my prima Teresa Vega for the invitation to delve into the Boricua branches of her family history.

Yauco: Whose history?

Historical narratives of Yauco’s steady population growth often focus on the arrival of Europeans over time, largely from France, Italy and Corsica. While their material contribution is not to be denied, this lineage can cast a long shadow over different histories contained within the documentary record.  If one turns their attention to the legal disenfranchisement of Taino and African descendants whose labor they culled, another trajectory of development becomes visible.

Depending on which region of Boriken,  people were undercounted if counted at all, and over time, many escaped the pages of census or parish records creating their own means of privacy as protection. For instance, eighteenth century censuses were not comprehensive and covered only part of the population, leaving the mountainous regions where Native people lived without being subjected to the processes of colonization. The pressures were still there as towns expanded, but if you’ve ever taken the Ruta Panoramica across central Puerto Rico, there are plenty of places that people sought refuge across time.

Indigenous women survived in large numbers, absorbing the men into a culture shaped by matrilineal relationships. [1] The economic repercussions of a shift out of a military structure to the development of plantation economies and its ensuing monocultures of sugar, coffee and tobacco, also shifted the fortunes and conditions of various families.

While the law advertised the power of church and government as total, it was anything but. Higher ground had its advantages.

Barrio Susua Alta y Bajo lies outside of barrio pueblo in Yauco, alongside of Almacigo, and between the two, most family members are based in either of these barrios. As the borders of Sabana Grande (founded in 1817) lies so close, one can see an overlap in the number of families there in the early nineteenth century, possibly the same individuals that are in Susua Alta.

Barrio Susua, Yauco, in red. Google Maps, 2019. Note the elevation and location of the Barrio Pueblo that borders the end of Susua.

Further west and south is San German, the oldest point of European settlement on the western side of the island. Older histories tell the story of Spanish conquistadors encounters with Natives that conveniently soon die off. I’ll come back to this ‘paper genocide’ shortly.

The Reverberation of DNA Evidence: An ethnically diverse society

Some history books stutter over the reality that Arawakan and Carib peoples remained across a region known as ‘El Capital Taino’ The Taino Capital’. This is part of an areas comprised of ancestors with traditions, an identity hidden in plain sight since colonization began. In 2000, Dr. Martinez Cruzado found that 61% of the people he  tested had an Indigenous maternal haplogroup, a reflection of an older, deeper history of genocide. Many Taino males were murdered or sold into slavery, while women had consensual or coercive relationships with the Spanish who arrived on the island.

Map from Martinez-Cruzado, “Mitochondrial DNA Analysis in Puerto Rico”

 

 

Beneath Spanish surnames are present Indigenous people, many reduced to the disenfranchising status of a color.  A color simply denies political status, it is reductive and useful in a system that pits capital against the flesh in an endless attempt to conquer or humiliate an individual.[2] Where did the survivors go? The mountains. These are the regions least known and mapped until the military maps of the late 1880s.

War & Women

,What also needs to come to the table is the treatment of women of color within a system of encomiendas and later slavery. Many remained in a service economy post-slavery. While mapping this may be too theoretical for some,  but in Antonia I Castaneda “Sexual Violence in the Politics of Conquest”, she writes, “Under conditions of war or conquest, rape is a form of natural terrorism, subjugation and humiliation, wherein the sexual violation of women represents both the physical domination of women and the symbolic castration of the men of the conquered group.” As women become the symbolic capital of men, rape becomes a “legitimate form of expression of superiority that comes with it no civil penalties” This is a property inheritance system whereby the ownership of property gives legitimacy and can be inherited. It’s backed up by sociopolitical reasons: religion, conquest, slavery, race, class. [3] This process continues into the present.

So we do need to weigh the idea of patriarchal concepts that are at work, embedded in narratives about the past, even those presented in documents. Who do we see in the records?[ How are women described? How are households comprised? What does mtDNA tell us about the past?] Thus, when we read for context, these elements can factor in different proportions depending upon time period or the person or institution presenting the information. The hunter does not tell the lion’s story.

So we do need to weigh the idea of patriarchal concepts that are at work, embedded in narratives about the past, even those presented in documents. Who do we see in the records? How are women described or what is the mtDNA informing us about the past?  Thus, when we read for context, these elements can factor in different proportions depending upon time period or the person or institution presenting the information. The hunter does not tell the lion’s story.

“Pardos libres”

There is often surprise at the realization that pardo literally means brown. The point of color is to compress and deny the complexity of identity, and thereby deny claims to sovereignty or political status. ‘Indio’’Jibaro’ are terms that acknowledge the indigenous presence yet, paper genocide renames them to a generic population. In 1808, Governor Toribio Montes instituted the census category eliminated ‘Indio’ and substituted ‘Pardo’ instead.

The census category of Indios, as Castanha points out, came at the expense of a Puerto Rican national consciousness.[4] The racial identification of Bonillas over time range from mestizo, pardo, mulato, blanco, terms that speak more to power than ancestry, and via the legal process of blanqueamiento literally shifts to white by purchase in the early nineteenth century. Yes, you could buy your white status and that was very handy for marriages into families of higher social status.

By the twentieth century, the categories reflect admixture and many in the census are listed as blancos. A similar process occurs in the US, where the context of admixed populations occupies different terminology depending on location, space, time period.

In 1776, the census by Fray Inigo Abbad included Blancos, sus Mujeres, Hijos, HIjas; Pardos libres; Negros, sus mujeres.

Nearly a century later, the numbers of POC in Puerto Rico are much higher than Cuba; note that the number of Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous and African people is almost equal to that

of those deemed white in this caste system in Puerto Rico.

Tracing Male Bonillas in the Early Nineteenth Century

The 1817 Lista de Milicias Urbanas has several Bonillas listed— 56 of them in fact. The spreadsheet created by Walter Cardona Bonet and others for the SPG from the original census in the Archivo General de Puerto Rico. Their document, (available with membership!)  has an alphabetical index. Yauco is not part of the areas transcribed, however, there is the adjacent municipality of Sabana Grande.

43 listed had an identity listed: 24- Pardos, 19 Blancos, with a distribution of Bonillas as follows.  The majority of militia in Sabana Grande and Coamo in 1817 were Pardos. The years of birth for these men ranged between 1757 to 1792, as service was from ages 25 to 60.

10 Coamo – 8 Pardo; 2 Blanco

8 Anasco – not identified

8 Sabana Grande – 8 Pardo

8 Humacao – 8 Blanco

5 Rincon – not identified

4 Guaynabo-  4 Pardo

3 Gurabo – 3 Blanco

3 Juana Diaz – 3 Pardo

2 Caguas – 2 Blanco

1 Aguada – 1 Pardo

1 Hato Grande – 1 Blanco

1 Las Piedras – not identified

1 Maunabo – Blanco

1 Toa Alta –  – not identified

Clearly there is more going on than meets the eye in terms of potential identification and categories for these Bonilla men across the island. I’ve written briefly about why some people in past decades put a halt to their genealogical research– upon discovering that their ancestor wasn’t the European one, but the black or mulatto or mestizo person of the same name; of segregated parish books disappearing, of pages surreptitiously ripped out in fear of being discovered one had pardo, Indian, black or slave ancestry listed on their documents.  Things are changing, and people are owning their past.[5]  That is less likely to happen now.  Given the numbers above, we are looking at a lot of blended people, mostly identified as Indigenous or Afro-Indigenous with the surname Bonilla.

Market Day in Yauco https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/96519607/
Yauco was one of Puerto Rico’s sugar exporting towns. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/90713919/

Violence and Family Histories

Through Black ProGen LIVE, we have worked on genealogies whose trees have been scarred by racial terror, the threat of erasure, lynching and attempts to disenfranchise different groups of POC, allies and others. As I came to learn, Puerto Rico is no different. I came to the story of Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo through my cousin, Teresa Vega almost five years ago, when she shared the publication Asesinato Politico. [6] Clearly Juan Eusebio Bonilla became a symbol of the movement the Spanish colonial government sought to crush.

 

 

To have a family member, an ancestor lynched requires time to absorb and to literally sit with the implications of a violence perpetrated by institutions that one expects help rather than harm.  The historical time period during which Juan Eusebio Salcedo lived came during a shift back to the monarchy in Spain, with two revolts, Grito de Lares in Puerto Rico and Grito de Yara in Cuba. There was a deterioration in living conditions reflected in increasing levels of mortality— for the general population and the birth rate.  There was a long process of gradual emancipation, in which people were sold up to the last moment possible in 1873, and the formerly enslaved were required to work three years for their former masters in exchange for freedom. [7] This was a population of color that could be found in every municipality, but in varying numbers.

The Path to Decolonizing Family Histories

Yauco had a series of uprisings since the fifteenth century. A map of rebellions by Hector Andres Negroni from his Historia Miitar de Puerto Rico shows clusters of related events occurred during the nineteenth century.  The late 1880s saw the both the establishment of the Partido Autonomista (Autonomist Party) and the arrival in March of General Romulado Palacio Gonzalez. A conservative aligned with the colonial center in Madrid, “identified, persecuted, pushiness, tortured and jailed dozens of autonomists,” [8]

1887 was known as “The Year of Terror” The General was removed from office by that November and returned to Spain.  “El Componte” imprinted many oral histories before the Spanish American War of 1898.

 

Map of Rebellions in PR showing extent of repression of El Componte and resistance to it in the central areas of the island and in Yauco. “Mapa de las rebellions.” Hector Andres Negroni, Historia Miliar de Puerto Rico

Jose Eusebio Salcedo’s Parents

Excerpt, Acta de Defunción, Jose Bonilla y Salcedo, 25 Oct 1885, FS.org

The death record for Juan Eusebio Salcedo’s brother, Jose Bonilla Salcedo holds a very different history in the description of his parents. “Era hijo legitimo de Marcos Bonllla y de  Rita Salcedo, naturales y domiciliados que fueron de este pueblo, labradores, difuntos.”   Jose Bonilla Salcedo died of anemia at the age of 33; Probably born in the 1820s, the birth of Jose was preceded by at least three others before 1852. Most outlived them.  Their parents, Marcos Bonilla Torres and Rita Salcedo Sanchez are described as agricultural laborers, which isn’t the same as agricultor proprietarios -agricultural  landowners as with theuan other Bonilla line.

Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo was a business owner, a comerciante, who dealt in coffee. He unlike many Bonillas was literate and able to sign his name. His resistance to processes of colonization has its basis in a longer suppressed history of Indigenous existence on the island.

Working Documents: Marcos & Hermenegilda

There’s a fundamental difference in practice among some family historians. There’s a bit of shoehorning happening with a certain Marcos Bonilla who appears in some trees tied to the Bonillas of Yauco. As a result, it doesn’t take much to disprove the presence of Marcos Bonilla in Coamo who a few assumed was the same Marcos Bonilla Torres of Yauco.

According to the 1888 death certificate, a 50 year old Marcos Bonilla in Coamo died of a wasting disease (caxequia paludica). Francisco Matos, a neighbor, reported Marcos’ vital details.  The secretary notes of Francisco ’sin segundo apellido’, an indicator of potential illegitimacy or class; its often found with POC as there are more single female heads of household. Born about 1838, the record states that Marcos was “hijo ilegitimo de Paula Bonilla natural de esta Villa, ya difunta”— the illegitimate son of Paula Bonilla, born in Coamo, deceased.” Next.

Hermenegilda Limardo Cintron

This Acta de Defunción for Hermenegildo Limardo Cintron is a hot mess. If someone did not already work other areas of the tree from the twentieth back to the early nineteenth century, a special surprise awaits.

Fortunately, I located the baptisms of several of her children, and was able to see who was listed as the father of the children along with her parents, all documents that predate this one by nearly two decades. There are no records listing these children as those of Juan Antonio or Juan Velez; neither are there two marriages with Hermenegilda Limardo Cintron.

This is the information given in the certificate above:

Dionicio Lopez Lugo natural y domicilado, casado, labrador, mayor de edad

primeras nupcias Juan Antonio Velez Agricultor proprietario

7 hijos, Juan, Damaso, Maria, Juana, Evaristo,

2ndas nupcias: Juan Velez, Agricultor proprietario, un hijo,  Juan

The declarante, Dionisio Lopez Lugo (1837-1892) was in his early 50s at the time, and died where he lived, in the adjoining barrio of Almacigo Bajo. He was married to Maria Bonilla, who remains to be identified at this time. Clearly he’s got some relationship to the Bonillas, but, does he have an agenda? As a legal document this is very problematic. Today, if someone tries to build a tree with this document, they will soon be nowhere.

I’ll address the baptismal information in the next section.  I’d like to give a shout out to Anaisa Bayala, for her index to the Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Yauco on FamilySearch. Without the links, this is next to impossible to locate.

Close & Closer Still: Endogamy, Big Time. 

Looking at most of the family connections in Yauco lead back to several clusters of Bonillas there that have varying degrees of consanguinity and admixture. Given several close dispensations, and having outlined several trees based on series of civil and parish records, it quickly becomes evident several strategies are at work to keep networks of property and family in the same hands. There can be a high cost, as the records show.

For us today, the problem is a bit different when trying to determine relationships on the basis of DNA.   One hilarious example is using MyHeritage’s system of AutoClustering that intends to group ancestry on the basis of dna. Ideally a set of rectangles isolating each grouping cascades diagonally across the page. When I took the test, the result was distributed into a practically solid pink surface, a visual suggestion of the layers of endogamy embedded in my ancestry; Teresa’s was the same.  Here too, AutoClustering is of no help.

A Second Degree of Consanguinity: Why it matters

What tracing the Bonilla line provided was a similar experience of endogamy first hand, which I will demonstrate. There are several dispensations early on, which begin to collapse the Bonilla tree. Two of the marriages are extremely close, a segundo grado de consanguinidad (second degree of consanguinity). These layered relationships begin early, very early.

As I said earlier these are tools of economic survival, justified by the church and extension, the community.  This isn’t about avoiding color, its about cementing relationships during times of intensive material and social change.

There are also connections across both across two main clusters of Bonillas that I have determined occurring over two centuries. I’ve annotated two charts to make the relationships visible.

First, here is a partial translation of the 1875 petition for dispensation requested by Juan Ramon Bonilla Limardo and Josefa Bonilla Figueroa for a second degree of consanguinity:

In the town of Our Lady of the Rosary of Yauco Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Yauco on the 10 of August 1875, I the undersigned parish priest having explored their intention in respect to contrasting marriage between Juan Ramon Bonilla, legal son of Juan Ramon and Ermenegilda Bonilla, and of Josefa Bonilla legal daughter of Vicente and of Cecilia Figueroa, dispensation granted by the His Grace, the Bishop of this Diocesis Don Juan tu.P Puig, for the canonical impediment of second degree of consanguinity on equal transverse lines, examined by Christian doctrine and conceded the three canonical banns anticipated in the Council of Trent

Second degree here was the marriage of two first cousins, and basically Juan Ramon Bonilla and Vicente Bonilla Sanchez were brothers and their children married each other. While this level of endogamy is not seen today, there are a few among nineteenth century dispensations. Uncle – Niece marriage also happened and falls under second degree. That these children had the same grandparents and the same set of aunts and uncles, is what endogamy and pedigree collapse refers to.

 

Descendants of Pedro Bonilla + Bernabela Sanchez – Teresa’s 4th great-grandparents as she is a descendant of Juana Florentina Bonilla Bonilla: Note the relationships. ©2019 Ellen Fernandez-Sacco

 

Descendants of Joaquin Bonilla + Carmen Rodriguez: Another set of Segundo grado. Mostly likely ancestors of Teresa. ©2019 Ellen Fernandez-Sacco

Juan Eusebio Bonilla Sanchez: Tying the Trees Together

Further research to continue but looking at the clusters of family, there will be more endogamy to connect the Bonillas together across time.  The goal here is to bring visibility to POC within the local history, and the costs of that identification during a moment of political repression 125 years ago. This holds meaning for us as Taino today.

Conclusion

Ultimately, people will grapple with this situation, and see the need for deeper historical  context paired with documentation and DNA results. Taken all together: “Finally, we show that the Native American components in some present-day Caribbean genomes are closely related to the ancient Taino, demonstrating an element of continuity between precontact populations and present-day Latino populations in the Caribbean.”[9]

The Bonillas of Yauco are also part of this larger historical context. Juan Eusebio Bonilla Salcedo’s revitalization is  important as is remembering his death and understanding our origins.

References

[1] Tony Castanha, The Myth of Indigenous Caribbean Extinction: Continuity and Reclamation in Boriken (Puerto Rico). Palgrave MacMillan, 2011.

[2] Castanha,

[3]  Antonia I Castaneda “Sexual Violence in the Politics of Conquest: Amerindian Women and the Conquest of Alta California. ” Building with Our Hands: New Directions in Chicana Studies. Anita de la Torre & Beatriz M. Pesquera. Berkeley UC Press, 1993, 15-33; 26.  https://www.law.berkeley.edu/php-programs/centers/crrj/zotero/loadfile.php?entity_key=FJSI8D4W

[4] Castanha, 90. “In other words, the creation of a Puerto Rican awareness came at the expense of the Indian or Jibaro. This form of ethnocide negated or instantly wiped out the Indian presence from the record books, and since the category of “pardos libres’, which we now know pertains to Indigenous people, has not been interpreted this way in history, the job was complete. As with indigenous groups historically, this negation assumes a national consciousness to be superior to, and thus takes precedence over all things indigenous, particularly one’s identity…” Also see Loida Figueroa Mercado’s observations: “Note: Please note that there was a majority of non-whites. In 1771, 38,259 comparted to 31,951, and in 1778 56,295 compated to 46,756. Please note, moreover, that crossbreeds are not specified (native with White) or other mixtures, under the term free coloured peoples. If we compare this census with O’Reilly’s made in 1765 we see an increase in the number of slaves from 7,592 in 1771 and 11,560 in 1778, compared to 5,037 slaves in 1765.

If we take all this data into account it is evident that the time has come to throw overboard the fallacy of the extermination of the native population. Of course there were grounds for the creation of this fallacy and for the subsequent transmission to future generations, as the documents of the first half of the century repeat that the “native Indians” had been eliminated.” [emphasis added] http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/41/304.html

[5] Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, Speaking to the Historical Present.Dealing with Genealogy.  http://latinogenealogy.blogspot.com/search?q=pardo

[6] E Guiterrez Velez, Asesinato Politico. 1965

[7] Fernando Pico, History of Puerto Rico, Princeton: Marcus Weiner Publishers, 2006, 199-202. Also key is Pico’s observation on p 198

Racial divisions have a serious effect on the development of national identities. This is a problem Puerto Rico shares with the rest of Spanish America, where there have been similar examples of prejudice against the indigenous peoples. But the desperate attempt to gain the approval of the leading cultural institutions in the metropolis led many Puerto Ricans to turn back on their Caribbean reality, to assume exaggerated Hispanophile poses. For a long time our culture defined itself as Spanish.”

[8] Jose Mari Mut, “El componte y la puerta” Foto e historia. Ediciones Digitales http://edicionesdigitales.info/unafotoyunahistoria/fotoehistoria/componte_y_puerta.html

Palacios ordered the manufacture of the windows and doors of the church in Santa Isabel, which are still there today. ; also see Romulado Palacio Gonzalez, Wikipedia, https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romualdo_Palacio_Gonz%C3%A1lez

[9] Hannes Schroeder, Martin Sikora, Shyam Gopalakrishnan, Lara M. Cassidy, Pierpaolo Maisano Delser, Marcela Sandoval Velasco, Joshua G. Schraiber, Simon Rasmussen, Julian R. Homburger, María C. Ávila-Arcos, Morten E. Allentoft, J. Víctor Moreno-Mayar, Gabriel Renaud, Alberto Gómez-Carballa, Jason E. Laffoon, Rachel J. A. Hopkins, Thomas F. G. Higham, Robert S. Carr, William C. Schaffer, Jane S. Day, Menno Hoogland, Antonio Salas, Carlos D. Bustamante, Rasmus Nielsen, Daniel G. Bradley, Corinne L. Hofman, and Eske Willerslev, “Origins and genetic legacies of the Caribbean Taino.” PNAS March 6, 2018 115 (10) 2341-2346; first published February 20, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716839115

Hector Andres Negroni, Historia de Yauco. Gob. Municipal de Yauco, 2006.

Hector Andres Negroni, Historia Militar de Puerto Rico: En conmemoración de dos mundos. San Juan, P.R. : Comisión Puertorriqueña para la Celebración del Quinto Centenario del Descubrimiento de América y Puerto Rico 1992.https://issuu.com/coleccionpuertorriquena/docs/historia_militar_de_pr_1992 

Loida Figueroa Mercado, History of Puerto Rico: From the Beginning to 1892.

Guillermo A. Baralt, Yauco: Notas Para Su Historia. San Juan, 1986.

Luis R. Negron Hernandez, Sabana Grande:  Notas Para Su Historia. San Juan,1986.

 

What Do We Owe Our Ancestors?

This blogpost is dedicated to all Speakers of TRUTH, especially my fellow BlackProGen LIVE  panelists,  who are on the battlefield for their ancestors and who continue to speak truth to power in a manner that makes their ancestors proud.

 

Our Obligation to Our Ancestors…

On this Good Friday 2019, I want to discuss the moral obligation that descendants have to their ancestors.  This is a topic I have spoken about for years now and will continue to speak about. My cultural worldview is one that is African-Native and has been shaped by the fundamental belief that there is NO SEPARATION between those who reside on high and those of us still among the living here on earth. Our ancestors are with us wherever we go! They not only exists in the features they left us with, the beautiful rainbow shades we have, the color of our eyes, but they also are with us in the words we speak and the acts of restorative social justice that we do in THEIR NAMES. We call their names so that they will be remembered by all.

For years now, my multi-racial extended family has been in places and situations that can only be described as guided by our ancestors. We were not supposed to be at the last public hearing in Greenwich, CT before the “Byram African-American Cemetery,” Byram Cemetery and Lyon Cemetery were to be acquired by the Town of Greenwich back in September 2016. And yet we were there. On April 17, 2019, our extended family attended the Rutgers-Newark Agitate! The Legacy of Frederick Douglass and Abolition in Newark celebration . We were not supposed to be there originally, but there we were. I was initially slated to only speak three minutes due to time constraints, but I spoke for 10 minutes. Our ancestors rendered possible what  seemed to be impossible. It was through God and their divine intervention that I was able to point out the FACTS of their lives — that they made up the bedrock of abolitionism in Newark.

 

 

These T-shirts can be purchased on www.rrbb-shop.com to support the preservation of cemeteries.

On Restorative Social Justice for Our Ancestors

Last  week  my Goin cousin and fellow BlackProGen LIVE panelist, Dr. Shelley Murphy, informed me that the Boyd Carter Cemetery in Kearneysville,  West Virginia, another historic African-American cemetery, is facing destruction. Our ancestors are in this cemetery facing a peace disturbed because a pipeline is slated to run through their sacred resting space. Shelley is working with other descendants of people interred there along with concerned allies, like Chris Petrella, a professor at American University and the Director of Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships with the Antiracist Research and Policy Center and others.

While we love working in tandem with our allies and welcome any help we can get, descendants of those buried in cemeteries, facing desecration and destruction, should fight on behalf of their own ancestors. It is OUR MORAL IMPERATIVE, OUR MORAL OBLIGATION as long as we reside on this earth to be our ancestors’ unified voice to articulate their pain, loud and clear, with our heads held high…

I want to say to the many people who have ancestral places that are currently under attack by outside forces that the battle is only over when WE SING and SHOUT! Don’t be dismayed that things aren’t going the way that you want them to go. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven! And in this our season, it’s time to get LOUDER and resurrect the lives and memories of those who are facing historic erasure. While the powers that be may eventually do what they always have done and erase our ancestral presence from the physical world,  we, as descendants, have the power to do what we always had to do and that is to find ways of remembering those who have gone before us. While our ancestors risked being severely punished, mutilated and killed for writing and speaking out in their own defense, they always relied on the power of memory and oral history to stay in touch with their own ancestors. Today, we have the power to remember our ancestors, resurrect their communities, and then turn around and tell the world about our kin. We are not powerless! Our ancestors left behind their DNA in us to fight any battle that comes our way! We’ve come this far by faith…

 

 

Stories from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice

BlackProGen LIVE has been working with the descendants of lynching victims and have been helping them flesh out their family trees and tell their ancestral stories. As Nicka Smith points out,  “In 2018, The Equal Justice Initiative opened the The National Memorial for Peace and Justice which memorialized more than 4,400 African American men, women, and children who were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950.”  Our two upcoming BlackProGen LIVE episodes “will feature the family history of some of the victims documented in the memorial in an effort to humanize and bring light to their lives outside of a tragic event they have been associated with,” states Smith.

BlackProGen LIVE is committed to educating and helping descendants of both Free and enslaved ancestors discover their ancestral stories. As a group, we believe that  our research is nothing short of reparational acts of restorative social justice. Time and time again, we have proven that here are ways in which our ancestral stories and family history can be discovered in spite of slavery.

 

 

 

In conclusion, I posted this video almost 8 months ago and I am going to leave it right here AGAIN because our ancestors are with us wherever we go and they guide our research every step of the way!

 

Our Abolitionist Ancestors: Newark Born and Bred

This blog is written as a supplement to the Agitate! The Legacy of Frederick Douglass and Abolition in Newark celebration taking place at Rutgers University-Newark on April 17, 2019. A special thank you goes to City of Newark Town Historian Junius Williams who several years ago invited me to add our Thompson-King family history to his website which is devoted to African-American political mobilization and activism in Newark and to his Rutgers University -Newark students Peter Blackmer, Noelle Lorraine Williams, and others. Dr. James Amemasor and the staff at the NJ Historical Society deserve special mention as they have all aided my research for almost a decade now along with my good friend Rich Sears Walling for his endless quest to bring the Van Wickle Illegal Slave Trade to light and seek social justice for the 177 Lost Souls–some of whom were our NJ ancestors.  My best friend and purveyor of all the research items I need,  Professor Rhonda L. Johnson, Head of Access Services at CUNY- Hostos Community College, my BlackProGen LIVE geneabuddies and fellow Truth Seekers, Muriel “Dee Dee”Roberts, Shannon Christmas, Calvin Schermerhorn, James J. Gigantino II, Joshua Rothman, Graham Russell Hodges, and others who have supported my research over the years.

The greatest thanks go to Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Peter Englot, Sr. VP Chancellor of Public Affairs and Chief of Staff, and Sr. VP Chancellor for External and Government Relations Marcia Brown and for inviting my extended family to this hisoric event and allowing me to speak as well as Dr. Consuella Askew, Director, John Cotton Dana Library. On behalf of our Thompson-King family, we look forward to working with Rutgers University in the near future.

This blog is dedicated to each and everyone of my extended family members who will join us at this event — in person or in spirit, especially my cousin-homie-sister-genealogy research partner, Andrea Hughes. Our Ancestor Angels will be watching us on this day  happily knowing that  it is in THEIR NAMES that their history of AGITATION will be remembered by all! I can imagine that they are also happy that we will be honoring a man whom they honored in life and that we are being united with his DESCENDANTS on this day. Indeed, this is a day that the Lord has made and we will be glad and rejoice in it.

On April 17-18, 1849, our Prophet of Freedom, Frederick Douglass, visited our hometown of Newark to speak at the Plane Street Colored Presbyterian Church as part of his tour of Northeast African-American churches after the publication of his  first book and to drum up support for his newspaper, The North Star.  When he arrived, he was introduced by Rev. Samuel Cornish, the pastor of the church at the time, as well as greeted by many of our ancestors among whom were the  Thompson, King,  O’Fake, Ray, Van Riper, Francis, Lewis,  Jackson, Goosebeck, and  Van Ness families among so many others.

Let it be known that our extended Thompson- King family has an over 400+ year history in Newark/Essex County, NJ as well as most counties across the state, and they were among the original foot soldiers of freedom who insitutionalized what became known as the Underground Railroad in the Northeast. They were the ones who founded churches, schools, anti-slavery societies (The Colored Anti-Slavery Society of Newark, the Anti-Slavery Society of Essex County, The New Jersey State Anti-Slavery Society, as well as the American Anti-Slavery Society), businesses, benevolent and mutual aid organizations, anti-colonization societies, Masonic lodges, literary societies, temperance  societies, etc. as I have previously mentioned in my blogposts (1) From Slave to Stagecoach Owner: Thomas Thompson, (2)My Poor 3rd Great-Grandfather Cato, (3)The Underground Railroad House that Jacob D. King Built in Newark, (4) Rev. John A. King: Abolitionist, Preacher, and Planemaker and (5) The Blanchard Family of Orange, NJ: From Slavery to Freedom.

Our ancestors are descended from the Ramapough Lenape who have lived in C/NY/NJ  for the millenia, Emmanuel d’Angola, one of the first “Spanish Negroes,” other enslaved people from all over West Africa, the first enslaved people from Madagascar, and European (Dutch, Scots-Irish, British and French Huguenot) colonizers.

With the exception of our indigenous ancestors, all others arrived in the early 1600s (see Part II: The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Manhattan & Our Family’s Malagasy Roots). We are especially proud of our African-Native roots because we know that our ancestors survived the triple horrors of genocide, colonization, and slavery so that we could tell their true stories — the good, bad, and ugly. It is their DNA of resistance that was handed down to us and which is embodied in our multi-racial family history working on the Underground Railroad.

The Abolitionist Context: Newark, NJ Pre-1849

  

Newark Daly Advertiser April, 8, 1864
Centinel of Freedom November 3, 1863
Centinel of Freedom November 3, 1863

Like most colonial families, our ancestors fought on both sides during the War of Independance. The famed Black Loyalist, Colonel Tye, led the Black Brigade in acts of resistence against the Patriots by launching attacks on Long Island, Westchester County, Staten Island and all over East Jersey. At this time, New York City was under British control. Colonel Tye worked directly with General John Graves Simcoe‘s Queen’s Rangers. These revolts occured in the same locations where our ancestors lived and labored for free. On the last ship out of NYC at the end of the Revolutionary War, were 3,000 Black Loyalists.  Among them were Mary Thompson and her daughters May and Polly plus two small girls, who may have been daughters of either one, from Newark, Rose Fortune and her family, and Richard Goosbeck — all ancestors of ours that we know of at this time.  That being said, it is also known that the true number of Black Loyalists who left for Canada was undercounted.

Slavery in Newark persisted after the Revolutionary War as you can see by the two  newspaper clippings above. Though our ancestors migrated from the Tappan Patent (Bergan County, NJ and Rockland/Orange Countties, NY) up to Ulster County, and then down to Greater Middlesex County prior to the Revolutionary War,  they ending up in  Newark (Essex County) after the Revolutionary War. Some were emancipated as early as the 1790s, others were enslaved for a term under the Gradual Emancipation Act of 1804, and others remained enslaved for life. The mixed-status households that our ancestors resided in is the reason why they espoused political activism and mobilization. They saw the horrors of slavery up close and personal— from every angle. The fact that only some of them were freed earlier than others meant nothing to them if everyone was not free. They always saw the full humanity of their people.  That our African-Native ancestors were disenfranchised, along with women in 1807, only added to their anger. They had lived through the Revolutionary War living and working side by side along well-known American Patriots, such as Abraham Ogden, and David A. OgdenCaleb Bruen, and had believed in the American Dream from its inception only to have their fundamental right to vote snatched from their hands. They never gave up on the American Dream though.

It must be noted that after the founding of the AME Zion Church in Newark in 1822, there was an exodus of our ancestors and other African-Americans from the First Presbyterian Church who ended up joining the AME Zion Church. Our ancestors only came back to their Presbyterian roots when the Colored Presbyerian Church was founded in 1836. Both of these churches can be considered “Freedom Churches” as the early Newark African-American community was united in their embrace of abolitionism. Both churches engaged in abolitionist activities whereby the early Black community routinely attended events at each church. We seen this in the early Colored School  as the school alternated  between both churches in its early years. Likewise, we see this in the First of August celebrations held in Lincoln Park where opening and closing prayers were held at both churches and ministers from each church spoke at these celebrations.

Starting in the early 1800s and up until 1900, our abolitionist ancestors knew all the early abolitionists from their participation in both the AME Zion Church that our King Family founded alongside of Rev. Christopher Rush and the Colored Presbyterian Church where our Thompsons were among the founding families. [Later, our ancestors would be among the founding families of St. Phillip’s Church and Bethany Baptist Church in Newark.] Rev. Samuel Cornish, John B. Russwurm, Rev. Theordore Hunt, Rev. E.P. Rogers, Rev. Theordore S. Wright, David Ruggles, Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, Rev. James McCune Smith,  Rev. Peter Williams and his son Rev. Peter Williams, Jr.,  Isaac Hopper, Thomas Shipley, Charles L. Reason, Rev. Alexander Crummel, Rev. Samuel Ringgold Ward, Gerrit Smith, Lewis and Arthur Tappan, Rev. James C. W. Pennington, Harriet Tubman, Sojouner Truth, Rev. W. T. Catto, James Forten, Robert Purvis, Rev. Simeon Jocelyn, Angelina Grimke Weld and Sarah Grimke, Rev. William O. Jackson, William Lloyd Garrison, Rev. John S. Rock, Rev. Daniel A. Payne, John Brown, William Still, Rev. Daniel Vanderveer, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, William C. Nell, John Teasman, Rev. Bishop James Varick, Rev Jehiel Beman and his son Rev. Amos G. Beman,  Martin Delaney, and William Wells Brown are just of the some of the  abolitionists my ancestors personally knew.

When Frederick Douglass came to Newark in 1849, Newark was already an epicenter of abolitionism and could hold its own among other Northeast epicenters like New York City and Albany/Troy, NY, Philadelphia, PA, Boston and New Bedford, MA, Providence, RI, and Hartford, CT.

Our Lyon Family Legacy: From CT to NY/NJ

Connecticut Puritans  settled in Newark (Essex County) and all over East Jersey in the early 1600s. Among Newark’s original settlers were the New Jersey Branch of our CT Lyon Family. Our Lyon ancestors have a strong abolitionist history with our Lyon-Green-Merritt ancestors who have always been linked by blood and kinship. The following blogposts detail our united family history that spans centuries up to TODAY: (1) A Look at Northern Slavery Personified: The Greens and Merritts of Greenwich, CT, (2) My Ancestors Are Now Buried In Someone’s Front Lawn, (3) Coming to the Table In Honor of Jack Husted, (4) Hangroot Was Our Hood: Reclaiming Black Greenwich History, (5) Our Ancestors Willed It And So It Came To Be, and (6) Off the Battlefield, But Still Suffering from PTSD. Most of our ancestors on our NJ Lyon line were Patriots during the Revolutionary War.
This 1806 map is in the Special Collections of Rutgers University http://mapmaker.rutgers.edu/NEWARK/Newark_1806.jpg

However, some Lyons, who migrated to New Jersey and New York, were Loyalists and ended up in Nova Scotia and Upper Canada West. One of our Lyon cousins, Pamela Lyons Neville, has documentation, both oral and written, that her ancestor, John Lyons, settled in Upper Canada West (Toronto, ON) at the request of the First Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada John Graves Simcoe. His father, Thomas Lyons, fought in the King’s Orange Rangers under Colonel John Bayard. The Canadian Loyalists Lyons, when joined by our Patriot Lyons from CT/NY/NJ, represent the full scope of our multi-racial abolitionist history in the Tri-State (CT/NY/NJ) area.

Lyons Farm Schoolhouse, Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/resource/hhh.nj0497.photos?st=gallery) This school was the first schoolhouse erected in Newark 1728 and was burned during the Revolutionary War in 1782, but later rebuilt.

Writing Our Other UGRR Abolionist Ancestors Back Into the Historic Record

This blogpost is nothing short, as Nicka Smith states, “an act of restorative social justice” for our ancestors.  It is our duty as descendants to honor the legacy that out ancestors bequeathed to us. For far too long our ancestral stories have been lost, remained hidden in archives, or have been rendered silent. We owe it to our ancestors to write them back into the historic record without hestitation, for every individual has a life story that is worthy to be told. We can count among our extended Thompson-King line many other abolitionist ancestors like Dr. John V. Degrasse and his brother Rev. Isaiah G. DeGrasse, Thomas Downing and his son George T. Downing who are related to us via our Van Salee/Hedden line. Below, however, are our ancestors who  are inextricably tied to the City of Newark through blood and marriage.
 Rev. Dr. Charles H. Thompson, (1820-1902)

Rev. Charles H. Thompson was the second Thompson-King family member to take up the cause of voting rights after the death of our Rev. John A. King in 1849. He deserves special mention here because of his life-long commitment to the civil rights and education of our people.  Rev. Thompson was born in Little York, PA, near Harrisburg, in 1820. He was the son of John Thompson, a brother of our Thomas Thompson. As a young person, he traveled back and forth from Little York, PA to Newark, NJ and Brooklyn, NY. In 1845, he married Elizabeth Berry of Brooklyn, NY and they had several children.

In the early 1850s, Rev. Charles Thompson became involved with the American Missionary Association (AMA), an abolitionist group led by Rev. Simeon Jocelyn, one of the original lawyers for the Amistad captives who landed in New Haven, CT in 1839. The AMA was founded in 1846 by political abolitionists, Black and White, who were also opposed to colonization and wwere members of  Presbyterian or Congregationalist churches. Unlike the Quakers, members of the AMA insisted on full equality between the races in their organization. Some of the Black founding members were Rev.  James W. Pennington, Rev. Theodore S.  Wright, Rev.  Samuel Ringgold Ward, and Charles B. Ray. Rev. Samuel Cornish, Rev.  Amos N. Freeman, and Rev. Henry Highland Garnet also served as officers in later years.

In the late 1850s, with sponsorship from the AMA and Reverend Jocelyn, Rev. Thompson enrolled in Oberlin College, known for its commitment to abolitionism,  in Oberlin, OH. He was among one of the first Black graduates in 1860. According to records in The Black Abolitionist Papers, Rev. Charles H. Thompson maintained a close relationship with Rev. Simeon Jocelyn often writing to him asking for money to help enslaved people as he was also ministering while being a student.

After graduating from Oberlin, Rev. Charles H. Thompson became a minister at Siloam Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, NY. It is not surprising that he ended up in Brooklyn as his wife’s family was from Brooklyn. Charles served three years as the reverend of this church. He later ministered at Shiloh Presbyterian Church in New York City.

In 1861, Rev. Charles H. Thompson became the minister of the Plane Street Colored Presbyterian Church. There can be no doubt that he became the minister of this church because of his family’s known ties to the church and also because of his political activism. While a minister at this church, he took up the cause of voting rights prior to the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870 and actively challenged the NJ State Legislature to restore the voting rights of people of color.  According to an article titled “Have Negroes the Right to Vote in New Jersey” in the Camden Democrat newspaper written on October, 27, 1866, it mentions that Rev. Charles H. Thompson was one of three plaintiffs who filed both a State Supreme Court and a Circuit Court of the United States lawsuit that challenged the disenfranchisement of people of color. On October 25th, 1870, the Centinel of Freedom mentioned how Rev. Charles H. Thompson addressed a meeting of a colored Republican group and admonished Black voters to vote Republican. As we know, the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln at that time. Earlier that year, he spoke at the “Negro Jubilee,” an event organized by a lot of our ancestors and other Newark abolitionists, held in Lincoln Park on April 20th, 1870 where Black Newark celebrated their right to vote. The 15th Amendment was finally ratified in New Jersey on February 21, 1871.

Rev. Charles H. Thompson stayed at the Plane St. Colored Presbyterian Church for 11 years. After earning a D.D degree from Avery College in Harrisburg, PA in 1870, he became an educator, as well as a minister, with the AMA.  The AMA played a major role in educating newly freed Blacks in the post-Civil War era. It was instrumental in founding Howard University, Berea College, Hampton Institute, Atlanta University, Fisk University, Straight University (now Dillard), Tougaloo College, Talladega College, LeMoyne (now LeMoyne-Owen) College as well as other historically black universities and colleges. Rev. Charles H. Thompson left the church and became a professor at Straight University (now Dillard University) as well as a minister at St. Philips Church in New Orleans. After his stint at Straight University, he moved on to teaching at Alcorn State University and ministered at St. Mary’s Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He later served at St. Matthews in Detroit, MI, St. Mary’s in Augusta, GA, and St. Andrew’s Missions in both Lexington, KY and Cincinnati, OH. He passed away in Cincinnati in 1902 and is buried in “the Colored American Cemetery near Madisonville,” according to the Diocese of Lexington, KY.

Centinel of Freedom April 20, 1870-The “Negro Jubilee” was the day that the city of Newark celebrated the ratification of the 15th Amendment. As in all of Newark’s First of August celebrations, this historic event took place in Lincoln Park, the only park in the city large enough to hold thousands of people.
Hawley Green (1810-1880) and his wife Harriet Peterson Green (1816-1886)
Hawley Green, a photo taken by a cousin, circa 1870

When my 2nd great-grandparents married, their union represented the merger of two early abolitionist families, The Thompsons of Newark, NJ with the Greens of Greenwich (Byram/Glenville), CT  and Peekskill, NY). Hawley Green was a cousin of my 2nd great-grandfather George E. Green. Hawley and his wife Harriet owned an Underground Railroad House located at 1112 Main Street in Peekskill, NY. He bought this house from James Brown, a well-known Quaker anti-slavery proponent, for 9 years before selling the home in 1839 to William Sands, another Quaker. Hawley Green and his wife went on to own several other properties in Peekskill. In addition, Hawley Green  was one of Peekskill’s best known barbers —an occupation that enabled him to surreptitiously gather intelligence related to “fugitives.”

Hawley and Harriet Green’s UGRR House at 112 Mainstreet in Peekskill. From John J. Curran’s 2008 book , Peekskill’s African American History: A Hudson Valley Community’s Untold Story.

Hawley Green was a well-known UGRR stationmaster, like our Jacob D. King,  who was a member of the AME Zion Church in Peekskill. It was said that, if a self-emancipating man made it to Hawley’s House, the next stop was Canada. Peekskill, NY was right on the Hudson River and transporting enslaved people would have been easy because of his UGRR home’s location. As a member of the AME Zion Church, he also  helped form a Colored School located there, along with J. W. Purdy. The AME Zion church also routinely hosted agents from Black Abolitionists newspapers like the Colored American and The Emancipator. David Ruggles, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, and Harriet Tubman certainly knew Hawley and Harriet Green as did all major abolitionists of the day. Gerrit Smith, the wealthy abolitionist  gave Hawley a land grant in the amount of 160 acres in Upstate New York which was 4 times the land given to other African-American abolitionists so that they could vote as land owners. Other Peekskill abolitionists such as Hawley’s brother, Goodman Green, son-in-law George Butler, Riley Peterson, Abraham Ray, Henry Jackson, and Moses Stedell also received 40 acre land grants from Smith.

Photo taken by Teresa Vega of a section of a 1837 Map of Peekskill. The full map is in the Collection of the Field Library, Peekskill, NY.

Other notable descedants on Hawley and Harriet Green’s line include the Deyo and Bolin families from Ulster County and Poughkeepsie, NY.

From: Colin T. Naylor, Civil War Days in a Conutry Village, Peekskill,NY: Highland Press, 1961:58. Note: He was only married to Harriet who, like other colonial people of African descent had Native-American, West African and Malagasy ancestry.

 

The Highland Democrat, Peekskill, NY November 29, 1919
Rev. John Wesley Dungey (1783-1866)

Rev. John Dungey is the father of my 3rd great grandfather Cato Thompson’s 2nd wife, Rosetta Dungey whom he married after my 3rd great-grandmother, Susan Pickett Thompson, died in the late 1850s. Cato met Rosetta through his sister Catherine Thompson who married, Mattias (Thomas) Hedden, Rosetta’s uncle.  Rosetta’s mother was Sarah Heady.  The Heddens/Headys are Westchester County’s oldest Free Black family. Thomas Hadden (1694-1761) of Scarsdale, NY had a  long-term relationship with Rose (1727-1777), his slave. When he died in 1761, in his 5 page will, he freed Rose and their 7 children, gave Rose a house to live on the same property as his white wife and children, provided for his “mulatto” children’s education, and left them an inheritance. Both Sarah and Mattias were the children of his son, Lazaraus Heady, Sr. (1751-1850). It should be noted that the Heady family is also linked to both our Green and Lyon families of Byram (also at times known as East Port Chester and Rye. NY), Greenwich, CT.

Rev. John Dungey was born in Richmond, VA in 1783. He was born to an enslaved mother, Isabel Dungey, and her slave owner with the surname Overton. His father was said to have descended from an English nobleman. When his father’s family moved to Kentucky, they wanted John to come with him. He refused to go as he was married to an enslaved woman at the time. He stayed in Virginia and learned the shoemaking trade and ultimately obtained his freedom.

His first wife died shortly after their son was born. Because his wife was enslaved, his son was also a slave. When she died, he offered to buy his son for $250 from the woman who owned him, but she refused his offer. It was then that he left Virginia and landed in New York City.

He married his 2nd wife, Sarah Heady, after arriving there and she bore him 5 children. However, we only know about two of them. By that time, he already had a large wholesale and retail shoe store at 24 Chatham Street and employed around 20 white men. His shoe store was right next to the New York Free School (which was different from the African Free School). Rev. James Varick, one of the founders of the AME Zion Church and it’s first Bishop, used to be a shoemaker and the two men probably first met to discuss his business as well as community issues. By 1812, Rev. John Dungey became a minister in the AME Zion Church. When Sarah died of an illness, he was left with 5 young children and his business suffered a downturn that left his family impoverished. It was then that he took stepped out on his faith and became a full-time minister.

Rev. John Dungey established AME Zion churches in  Flushing and Ossining, NY, New Haven, CT and finally the last one in Troy, NY. He was a minister for over 50 years in the AME Zion Church. He attented Colored conventions, spoke at numerous abolitionist events, and aided those who sought freedom in the North.

The New York Tribune October 5, 1862

 

The Times Record, Troy new York June 13,1942
Rev. George Weir, Sr. (circa 1800- 1862) and Rev. George Weir, Jr. (1822-1882)

Rev. George Weir, Sr. was married to Rev. John Dungey’s daughter Nancy Dungey. Both he and his son, from his first wife,  Rev. George Weir, Jr., were UGRR stationmasters in Buffalo, NY, Rochester, NY and Upper Canada West. Rev. George Weir, Sr. was the first permanent pastor of the Vine Street AME Church (which was later named the Bethel AME Church). He served as pastor from 1838-1847). The Vine Street AME Church was very active in the Abolitionist Movement from its inception and was known as a “Buffalo Station.” Among the abolitionists known to have ties to this church were Abner Francis, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, William Wells Brown, Lewis Baker, Henry Moxley, George DeBaptiste, Thomas Hamilton, and James Whitfield among many others. Buffalo, NY was the station on the other side of Niagara Falls from the final destination of self-emancipating people fleeing slavery.  Both Rev. Weirs represent our family’s UGRR ties to Upper Canada West, especially St. Catherines Parish. Hand in hand, working with both Black and White abolitionists, they ferried people across Lake Erie starting in the late 1830s and escalating after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.

Rev. Weir, Sr. was a member of the National Negro Convention Movement, Buffalo Anti-Slavery Society, Temperance Movement, and routinely gave anti-slavery lectures across the North. He regulary traveled to Newark and New York City  and was routinely feature in the Colored American and the North Star. Likewise, Rev. George Weir, Jr. owned a grocery store and was one of Buffalo’s weathiest Black residents and his home was also a known UGGR depot. He was a regular contributer to Frederick Douglass, North Star. Our Newark ancestors also made visits to Buffalo, Rochester, and Upper Canada West no doubt to visit family, friends, and engage in abolitionist activities.

The Buffalo Daily Republic August 8, 1849 Rev. Weir organized the first First of August Celebration in Buffalo.
North Star, March 20, 1851

The Liberator, June 27, 1862

 

Six Degrees of Separation: Frederick Douglass and Our Ancestors

Frederick Douglass had a 50-year intergenerational relationship with our ancestors that also included some of his family members. At times, it seems like there is six degrees of separation between the descendants of Frederick Douglass and our Thompson-King Family.

His son, Frederick Douglass, Jr. was married to our cousin Muriel “Dee Dee” Robert’s 3rd great-grandmother’s niece, Virginia L. Molyneaux Hewlett. On Dee Dee’s line, her ancestors were both Black Loyalists and Patriots.  Her Thompson line is connected to Jeremiah Lott, an original settler of Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY.

Frederick Douglass, Jr., husband of Virginia L. Molyneaux Hewlett

Pvts. George Butler, son-in-law of Hawley Green, and his brother Albert,  were members of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment along with Peter Vogelsang and Dr. John Van Surley DeGrasse, two of our other ancestors who are on our Van Salee-Hedden line that goes back to New Amsterdam. Frederick Douglass’ two sons, Sergeant Major Lewis Henry Douglass and First Sergeant Charles Redmond Douglass, also served in the 54th Regiment. All five were our “Glory” ancestors, the epitome of Patriots!

George Butler, Peter Vogelsang, and Dr. John A. DeGrasse
Lewis Henery and Charles Redmond Douglass

Finally, our own ancestor, Wallace King, son of William King and Phyllis Goosbeck (Thompson), was an abolitionist, Prince Hall Mason, and one of the most famous internationally known Black opera singers and minstrels in the post-Civil War era. Of him, Frederick Douglass commented that he was “among his most gifted proteges.”

San Francisco Chronicle, February 22, 1903

On Honoring Our Ancestors and Newark History

For 10 long and illuminating years, my cousin Andrea and I have been researching our “Radiant Roots.”  This precious time has been filled with joy, anger, tears, grief, and laughter. As we near the completion of our research, we have decided to further listen to the voices and messages of our ancestors and publish a book on our extensive family history.  In this way, we will place them back into the historical record.  This blogpost is just an inkling of what we have uncovered…

 

 

The Insidiousness of Slavery: No Justice and the Van Wickle Slave Ring

This blogpost is written as a supplementary addition to the December 16th, 2018 historic Day of  Remembrance at the East Brunswick Public Library as part of The Lost Souls Public Memorial Project. A special thank you goes to Rev. Karen Johnston, Mae Caldwell, the NJ Council for the Humanities, The Unitarian Society, New Brunswick Area Branch of the NAACP, Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society – NJ Chapter Sons & Daughters of the Us Middle Passage Society, East Brunswick Human Relations Council, East Brunswick Senior Center and the East Brunswick, Library. Additional thanks goes to my BlackProGen geneabuddies and fellow Truth Seekers, Muriel “Dee Dee” Roberts, Shannon Christmas, James Amemasor and the staff at the NJ Historical Society, Junius Williams, Rhonda Johnson, James J. Gigantino II, Calvin Schermerhorn, Joshua Rothman, Grahan Russell Hodges, and others who have supported my research over the years. I am most indebted to Rich Sears Walling for his endless quest to bring this horrific travesty to light and to seek social justice for these 177 Lost Souls.

This blogpost is dedicated to all my ancestors and to my M23 cousins who decided to take mtDNA  and autosomal DNA tests that have enabled us to reconnect with our DNA cousins who share our Native-American, Malagasy, West African, and European ancestry and find out our true family history. A big shout out to my  cousin-homie-sister- genealogy partner Andrea Hughes, Mildred Armour, Robert Armour, Sharon Anderson, Ray Armour, Tashia Hughes, our late Cousin Helen B. Hamilton , Alan Russell, Frances Moore, Lois Salter-Thompson, Dorothy Miller, Brenda Ryals-Burnett, “Donnie”, Sharon Baldree, Rhoda Johnson, and Barbara Pitre and her mother Pearl Kahn.

On Insidiousness….

The Van Wickle Slave Ring was insidious from its inception. The word origin of insidious comes from the Latin insidiosus meaning cunning, deceitful, artful and from  from insidiae (plural) meaning to plot, snare, and ambush.

In 1818, there was a conspiracy of slave speculators who stole African-American and mixed-race free, enslaved for a term, and enslaved for life people out of New Jersey and New York and transported them to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama with the full collusion of Judge Jacob Van Wickle and his judicial cronies. They operated in full violation of a 1812 New Jersey state law that clearly stated that no person of African descent or other person of color who was a servant, slave for life or slave for a term could be taken out of the state without their consent if they were of age or their parents’ consent if underage. This law was put into effect to further strengthen the Gradual Emancipation Act of 1804 that declared that any child born, after July 4th, 1804,  to a slave mother had to first serve a term  — 25 years if male and 21 years if female — as a servant for their mother’s owner and then they would be free. In order to make a profit from slave speculating, Van Wickle and his devious gang devised a plan where they would procure People of Color in New Jersey and New York by any means necessary and sell them South as slaves for the rest of their lives without their knowledge or consent. Most of the 177 individuals that we know of today  were in their teens or early 20s though there were many children under the age of 10 –the youngest two being just 2 days and 6 weeks old. Freedom was snatched from all of them with a blink of an eye and with Jacob Van Wickle’s signature all over the place. Among them, were some of my maternal ancestors. Any emblem of justice was denied to them.

Two years ago, I wrote my blogpost Part II: The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Manhattan & Our Family’s Malagasy Roots where I discussed my maternal ancestors’ migration out of New Amsterdam to the Tappan Patent (Bergen County, NJ/Rockland and Orange Counties, NY) and our Full Sequence M23 mtDNA Cousin matches at that time. Two years later, this blogpost expands on our most recent findings. We now know that while Lewis Compton, James Brown, Charles Morgan, Nicholas Van Wickle, and others, on November 13th-17th, 1818,  were in a Pennsylvania courtroon answering to the charges of removing People of Color from New Jersey and New York without their consent, my ancestors were  among the 48 individuals already on their way to serving lives of involuntary servitude in the South. Crammed onboard a ship outfitted with plantation supplies and equipment, they were on the last documented slave ship out of South Amboy, the Schoharie, which sailed on October 25th, 1818. That they were unwitting pawns in a system designed to further dehumanize them is the epitome of the insidiousness of slavery indeed!

 

If Fred Could See Us Now: On the Uses of DNA Testing for Slave Ancestor Research

In 1855, the late great Frederick Douglass stated, “Genealogical trees do not flourish among slaves.” Boy, if Fred could see us now. DNA testing has opened wide doors for those of us who are seeking to find out more about our formerly enslaved/enslaved ancestors. The 1870 brick wall that has blocked us from discovering our ancestry in the past no longer exists as a barrier. DNA testing, along with a host of other documents that help us trace our enslaved ancestors has proven that walls are meant to be broken down. Thanks to mtDNA, Y-DNA, and autosomal DNA testing, what was once impossible to prove has now been rendered possible. The pepper in salted histories can be now seen by all and can no longer be denied. DNA testing also allows us to see the true humanity inherent in earch individual and to connect us with our DNA cousins of all backgrounds.

In addition, DNA testing provides us with DNA migration maps that document where our ancestors originated and the geographical areas they dispersed to over time. I live in NYC where my Native ancestors have resided for the millenia and where my West/East African and European ancestors have lived since 1620. That’s a 400+ year family sojourn that speaks volumes about our family history and resonates in #NoEllisIslandHere. We are, and have been, true Americans before America was even America. Facts matter!

Early Colonial Native and African-American Endogamy in Rural Communities

Our ancestors were the descendants of Native and African people formerly enslaved/enslaved by Dutch, Swedish, French Huegenot, and Puritan/Quaker slave owners in colonial NJ, NY and CT. These colonial rural communities were tri-racial and multi-racial from their inception as slave owners migrated up and down the Hudson River Valley and into New Jersey in search of land, wealth and religious freedom. They, of course, brought their formerly enslaved/enslaved servants with them. Though there were laws on the books and societal sanctions against interracial relationships of any sort, these types of relationships did in fact occur. The migration journey that our ancestors took was out of New Amsterdam (including Westchester County, NY and Greenwich, CT which were also intrinsic parts of the Dutch colony), to the Tappan Patent, and then migrated up and down the Hudson river during the 1600 and early 1700s. They later migrated further into New Jersey ending up in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Somerset, Middlesex,  Hunterdon, Monmouth, Burlington, Gloucester, and Cumberland Counties in the early to mid-1700s just before the American Revolution  before finally settling in the city of Newark in the late 1780s and early 1800s.

State of NJ, County lines 1753-1824. Based on map created by R. Ryan Lash with information from Minnesota Population Center, National Historical Geographic Information: Pre-release Version 0.1, 2004. Reprinted in James Gigantino II’s The Ragged Road to Abolition: Slavery and Freedom in New Jersey, 1775-1865.

DNA testing confirms that the same surnames and shared DNA shows up in our DNA cousin matches across color lines which would be expected in small rural communities. These surnames can be traced to the founding families of all these counties. To date our list of our NJ and NY colonial surnames include the following: Ackerman, Anderson, Banks, Banta, Beekman, Blanchard, Blauvelt, Bogardus/Bogart, Bolin/Bolling, Brower/Bouwer, Brown, Barkalew/Buckelew, Chapman, Cisco/Sisco, Claeson/Clawson, Clarkson, Conover, Cook, Corlies, Cortelyou, D’Angola, Day, De Vries/DeFreese, Degrasse, DeGroat/DeGroot, Demarest, DeWitt, Deveaux/Devoe, Dey/Deyo, DuBois, Fortune, Francis, Francisco, Groesbeck/Goosbeck, Gould, Hampton,  Haring, Hedden, Hendricks, Hicks, Hill, Hoagland, Hopper, Hooper, Huff, Jackson, Jennings, ]ohnson, Lewis, Lyon/Lyons, Mabie, Mandeville, Manuel/Mann, Mathis, Moore, Morris, O’Fake/Feich, Phillips, Pickett, Ray, Remson, Richardson, Rickett, Schmidt, Scudder, Schenck, Shipley, Slater, Smith, Snyder, Stillwell, Stives,  Stockton, Suydam, Ten Broeck/Timbrook, Ten Eyck/Teneyck, Thomas, Thompson, Titus, Turner, Van Blanck, Van Buskirk, Van Clieff/Van Cleef, Vanderzee, Van Dunk/VanDonck, Van Duyne, Van Dyck, Van Horn, Van Gaasbeek/Van Gasbeck, Van Liew/Louw, Van Ness, Van Riper, Van Salee/Van Surley, Van Wickle/ Van Winckle, Washington, Wheeler, Williams, Wortendyke,  Wyckoff, and Zabriskie, among others.

1850 Newark Census that shows my ancestors (Thompson, King, Hedden, O’Fake, Gould, Brower, Jackson, and Francis) living next to other people whose ancestors came from Middlesex County.

The issue of endogamy within colonial America must be discussed as it relates to formerly enslaved/enslaved people in these Northern states. Given that so few People of Color resided in these states in the 17th-19th centuries, it is not surprising that intermarriages and/or relationships were very prominent among the same African-American and mixed-race families in those places. Unlike endogamy among Ashkenazi Jews and Puerto Ricans due to close cousin or family intermarriage,  People of Color at this time tended to marry or form relationships with people living nearest to them just like everyone else. Because of the nature of slavery and lack of genealogy records on formerly enslaved/enslaved people, descendants of these people would not necessarily know that they shared a common gene pool with the same families, especially as they migrated away from these rural communities towards burgeoning cities, like Newark and NYC, where they increased their pool of marriageable partners and became less endogamous. As descendants of these people, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we may be related to a person based on many shared ancestors and not just one or two. 

The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Middlesex County, NJ: The Case of the Slave Ship Schoharie

An October 26, 1818 Schoharie slave ship manifest listed the names of  48 individuals who were stolen away from their families, their communities, and their home state. The ship first  sailed to Norfolk, VA and then to La Balize on the Mississippi River where the human cargo was checked before traveling onward to New Orleans and elsewhere.  Unlike the other Van Wickle Slave Ring victims whose names were changed to hide their true identities or who forever remain nameless, the 48 individuals on the last documented slave ship out of New Jersey had their real names written down. At the time of their departure, those responsible for their removal made no attempt to hide who they were or what they did. They were very transparent in their conniving ways knowing full well that the laws were made by them and for them. Our ancestors’ lives weren’t worth anything beyond their production labor value. They were seen as no different from any work animal or old tool — easily replaceable and disposable.

These innocent victims were:

William MClare, m, 25, 5;8:, light negro
Jafe Manning, m, 21, 5 5 ¾, black, same
Robert Cook, m, 17, 4 9 ½, light, same
Ben Morris, m, 22, 5’1” black, same
Sam Prince, m, 19, 5’10”, light, same
Sam Peter, m, 30, 5’4”, black, same
George Phillips, m, 18, 5’3”, black, same
James Thompson, m, 5’5 ¼” light, same
Edward Gilbert, m, 22, 5’3 ½” blk, same
Dan Francis, m, 20, 5’1” light, same
James, m, 15, 4’11” black, same
Charles, m, 19, 5’2 ¾” black, same
Susan Wilcox, f, 36, 5’2” light
Nelly, f, 18, 5’ ¼” black, same
Betsey Lewis, f, 28, 5’1” black
Jane Clarkson, f, 23, 5’5” black, same
Eliza Thompson, f, 21, 5’ 1 ¾” light, same
Jane Cook, f, 15, 5’ ¾”, light, same
Ann Moore, f, 29, 4’ 9 ½”, black, same
Julian Jackson, f., 21, 5’ ¼” dark, same
Jane Smith, f, 33, 4’ 10 3/4” light, same
Peggy Boss, f, 21, 5’ 3” dark, same
Mary Harris, f, 21, 4’ 10 ½” light, same
Sally Cross, f, 20, 5’1” blk, same
Rosanna Cooper, f., 22, 5’3” blk, same
Mary Simmons, f, 18, 4’11” dark
Hannah Jackson, f, 18, 5’ 1 ¼” do
Hanna Crigier, f, 18, 4, 10 ¼” black
Harriet Silas, f, 15, 4’11” light
Fanny Thompson, 14, 4’7” dark,
Elizabeth Ann Turner, 16, 4’8” black
Susan Jackson, 20, 4’8” black
Hanna Johnson, female, 20, 4’9” black
Hannah, eighteen, 4’9 ¼” dark
Cane, m, 22, 5’1/2”
Jack, m, 22, 5’6” dark, same
Lewis, 22, 5’8” black, same
Peter, 14, 4’ 6 ¾” black, same
Frank, 21, 5’2” dark
Caleb Groves, 50, 5’ 2 ½” dark
John, 21, 5’3” black
Collins, 35, 5’3” blk
Othello, 16, 4’10” light
Anthony Fortune, 21, 5’2 ¼” dark
Joseph Henricks, 19, 5’5”, dark
Jane, f, 23, 5’5 1/4” light
Susan, f, 21, 4’10 ½” light
Lena, f, 38, 5’2” dark

When I first saw this list of names, I cried tears that were based on my belief that there is no separation between us, the living, and those who came before and those who shared a journey with us when they were among the living. Death is nothing but a natural happenstance. Nothing has changed. My tears flowed knowing the historic trauma all 48 people went through torn away from their family and community to labor in the sugar and cotton plantations of the South. And I cried most of all because the surnames were ones I knew all too well because they were our own.

Over the past two years, we have been working hard to discover how our Full Sequence mtDNA cousin matches are related to each  other. Looking for these ancestral connections is not for the faint of heart. Unlike Y-DNA where paternal surnames stay the same and paternity can often be established through male cousin matches, mtDNA cousin matching is a different beast due to women changing surnames upon marriage. Now, just add the institution of slavery, colonization, and genocide which were crimes against humanity that interrupted our family trees in a massive way for centuries, and you got a genealogical puzzle with a million missing pieces. Just ponder that for a minute. Despite this, with both mtDNA and autosomal DNA testing, we were able to connect many surnames to other enslaved/formerly enslaved families as well as to their slave owners. Oh, if Fred could see us now!

Please note that the screenshots below are taken from AncestryDNA which I use to unearth family connections among the many family trees of known relatives as well as our DNA cousin matches. They also show the colonial endogamy I’ve spoken about above. Because AncestryDNA does not have a chromosome browser, we are all prevented from doing the level of DNA triagulation that is necessary for 100% certainty which is a shame. At this point, all we can do is compare surnames among our DNA matches and see what surnames and geographical areas we have in common. We have had some luck with DNA cousins who uploaded to Gedmatch, but with the recent changes there, I know that Gedmatch’s triangulation usefulness for People of Color who have enslaved ancestors has been compromised (Please see Nicka Smith’s blogpost on this topic).

As children of the African Diaspora, we are considered to be “admixed” and are rarely 100% of any one ethnic/racial group. As I have said many, many times before, ethnic admixture itself doesn’t tell you anything beyond the continental categories of Sub-Saharan African, Native American/Asian, and European. You MUST be committed to digging a whole lot deeper to find your family truth and that involves connecting with your DNA cousins whoever and wherever they are in addition to looking at genealogical records and local history! Click here to see my Genetic Genealogy page for the necessary tools/website links to do so if you are up to the challenge and I am challenging you all to do so. Now, you know.

Here are some examples of early African-American colonial endogamy and clearly show some of the surnames of those whom were sold South from Middlesex County.

 

Reclaiming Our Lost Community of Ancestors and Their Descendants

In 2015, my cousins Andrea and Helen took FTDA’s Full Sequence mtDNA test to see what else we could find out about our maternal Malagasy line. Three years later, we have 14 Full Sequence mtDNA cousin matches who share our M23 haplogroup. I have been in touch with 9 of our 14 FS mtDNA cousins.We have learned that 4 out of our 9 mtDNA cousins have ties to the NY/NJ area along with my family. Three mtDNA cousins, Brenda, “Donnie”, and Dorothy are actually 5th cousins who share the same set of 4th great-grandparents who were born in Nova Scotia. Their 5th great-grandmother Rose Fortune was born in VA and who, as a 10-year-old girl, boarded a ship in NYC to Nova Scotia in 1783 at the end of the Revolutionary War. Her parents were Black Loyalists and their family is documented in The Book of Negroes. We have found some documentation that their 6th great-grandparents were from Philadelphia and were owned by the Devoe family.

Brenda, her mother and Grandmother Mary who was Rose Fortune’s 2nd great-granddaughter

The Devoe family were French Huguenots who arrived in New Amsterdam in the late 1600s and who settled up and down the Hudson River before some of their descendants moved to NJ and PA, including Philadelphia. Clearly, the Devoes had acquired Malagasy slaves in NY and the children of those slaves would have been inherited by their descendants.

The Alice Applyby DeVoe House in East Brunswick, NJ

The DeVoe family was also in East Brunswick, South Amboy, and elsewhere in Middlesex County as were the Fortune family. Could Rose Fortune’s maternal line come from the this line of the DeVoe family? We can’t say for sure at this time, but it may be worth further study.

My 2nd great-grandmother Laura Thompson, Frances who represents Lois Salter-Thompson’s line, Dorothy Miller and her maternal aunt.

We have identified the family line of the two other M23 mtDNA cousins, Lois/Frances and Dorothy, who also match my family along the Timbrook-Titus line and this line originates in the Greater New Brunswick, NJ area. In the 1870s, my family has a Rev. Isaac B. Timbrook living with our Thompson-King ancestors in Newark, NJ and his niece Violet Timbrook is living in a house owned by our 3rd great-grandfather Cato Thompson, who was married to our  M23 3rd great-grandmother Susan Pickett. In 1850, Isaac was a laborer on Judge Van Wickle’s nephew, Stephen Van Wickle’s farm.

The Timbrooks are related to our Malagasy descended Thompson-Pickett-Snyder-Scudder line from the Tappan Patent. Lois’s 4th great-grandparents were Thomas Titus and Sarah TenBroeck/Timbrook. Isaac is her nephew, the son of her brother Edward Timbrook. We have been able to identify the slave owner who purchased Sarah and Edward’s mother, Phebe. His name was Abraham Barkelew hence the B. in Rev. Issac’s name is most likely Barkelew. We have also come across Frederick Barkelew’s 1791 will that mentions “a free negro” by the name of “Fortune.” We also found Abraham Barkelew’s 1809 will  where he bequeathed a “negro woman Phebe” to his granddaughter Anne. Dorothy is connected to a Fanny Titus who is related to this family line as well. We are still sorting out the family relationships due to the sharing of many surnames (colonial endogamy), but it is now fairly certain that this is the extended family line that links us to our common Malagasy ancestor.  In addition, it should be noted that our line sided with Patriots during the Revolutionary War.

Alan Russell, his daughter, and mother whose M23 line comes from St. Helena Island in the Southern Atlantic Ocean.

Our mtDNA cousin Alan has a maternal grandmother who was half-Malagasy/half British and who was born on the island of St. Helena. This island was the first stop on the return trip from Madagascar. An import tax was paid in the form of Malagasy slaves on ships that arrived in St. Helena’s port. For Alan to be related to all of us means that we either shared a common ancestor in Madagascar whose descendants ended up in two different locations or maybe two females ancestors became separated when a ship from Madagascar stopped in St. Helena on its way to New York. Alan’s connection to our M23 cohort is of particular interest as it shows the importance of St. Helena as a stopover point on the way from Madagascar to New York. Alan can trace his maternal ancestry back to his 3rd great-grandmother, Sarah Bateman, who was born in 1815 on the island of St. Helena. Her maternal ancestors were Malagasy for certain.

Rhoda Johnson, Barbara Pitre-McCants, and her mother Pearl Kahn whose ancestors were sold South from New Jersey in the Van Wickle Slave Ring.

Through mtDNA testing, we have now FOUND our cousins whose ancestor were sold South in the Van Wickle Slave ring. Rhoda, Barbara and her mother Pearl’s ancestors were bought by the John Morrisette Family of Monroe County, AL and passed down to their descendants as property. Their ancestors ended up in Monroe, Wilcox, Dallas, and Hale Counties in Alabama. Today, Hale County, AL  is a 4 hour drive to New Orleans, but their ancestors would have walked in a coffle there to labor in sugar and cotton plantations.

Barbara also tested at AncestryDNA as well. She has numerous DNA cousin matches that link her maternal side to New Jersey via some of the same  surnames we have like Ten Broeck/Timbrook, Slater, Conover, Van Ness, Deyo, Schenck, Shipley, Wyckoff, and many, many more. We have also been cross-checking with many other DNA cousins who have MS, AL, LA, and VA familiar roots and they are highly likely related to some of these other individuals who were sold South. We can rest assured that it is possible to flesh out our family trees despite slavery. In the future, I hope and pray that the more People of Color take DNA tests, the more we can prove that slavery was not 100% successful because we are still here to represent those who came before us.

On Being A Descendant of Survivors of Slavery…

I tell people that I do  “ancestor-guided” research and that my ancestors are with me wherever I go.  I consider it an honor to dig up and tell their true stories. I am a proud descendant of the enslaved and the free. My ancestors lived in households that were of mixed status where some were free, some were slaves for a term, and some were slaves for life in NJ, NY and CT. In 1818, they knew without a doubt who was sold and where these folks ended up. They were the witnesses to this atrocity at the time that it occurred. They did not sit back and accept their place in history.  Instead, they made America greater by becoming early abolitionists who built schools, churches, joined fraternal organizations, mutual aid societies, and then got to work on the Underground Railroad. We have been blessed to have 4 Underground Railroad homes (Newark, NJ, Peekskill, NY, Greenwich, CT, and Buffalo/Rochester/Upper Canada West) operated by both sides of the color line. In due time, I will be writing a book on our larger family history.

Today, all of us are  witnesses to the Van Wickle Slave Ring episode in American history. The 177 individuals who were smuggled out of  NJ can rest in peace knowing that they are remembered and that their historical erasure is no more.

In addition to the above 48 individuals, there were 129 other people smuggled out of the state of New Jersey in 1818.

First group sent Louisiana on March 10, 1818/*Mothers are grouped with their children

Peter     15

Simon   no age listed, free man

Margaret Coven, no age, free woman

Sarah     21

Dianna 7 months

Rachel   22

Regina  6 weeks

Hager    29

Roda 14

Mary     2

Augustus 4

Florah   23

Susan    7 months

Harry     14

James   21

Elmirah 14

George 16

Susan Watt         35

Moses  16

Lydia      18

Betty     22

Patty     22

Bass       19

Christeen            27

Diannah  9

Dorcas  1

Claresse               22

Hercules   2

Lidia       22

Harriett Jane      3

Bob

Rosanna

Claus

Ann

                Rosino

Jenette

Charles   (child)

Elias       (child)

Robert  (child)

Thirty-nine  individuals.

Second Group, departed May 25, 1818

Leta       21

Dorcus  16

Sam Johnson     32

Margaret             21

Jane       25

John 4

Mary Davis          23

Phyllis   25

Charles   1

Jack        16

Harvey  22

Elizer (f)               19

Frank     21

Hester  18

Peter     21

Susan Silvey  30

Jacob 18 months

Betsey  22

Jonas     16   free person

Sam       16

William 22

Henry    21

Amey    22

Juda (f) 26

Samuel 2

James   22

Sam       32

George Bryan    18

Hannah                16

Nancy   22

Joseph  2 days

Peter     17   free person

Hannah                14

Jack Danielly       21

Jude [no judicial certificate]

Caroline, 18

Ann, 18

Jeanette, 12

Mose

Thirty-nine individuals.

Third Group departed in late August 1818 and arrived in New Orleans in September.

39 unknown individuals.

Fourth Group departed in mid-October overland through PA, 1818

George 35

Cain       22

Frank     21

Lewis     22

Elijah     31

Mary     27

Law        21

Phebe   21   free person

Susan    23

Charles 43

Pettes   14

Jane       23

Twelve names.

Let us say their names so that they will ALWAYS be remembered!

 

Off the Battlefield, But Still Suffering from PTSD

This blog is dedicated to our cousins Helen Hamilton, Keith Lyon, and Raymond Armour who were on this jouney with us from the start and whom all joined our pantheon of ancestros within the past 8 months. They are now our newly-appointed Ancestor Angels and biggest cheerleaders. We will keep saying their names so that they will always be remembered.
L Cousins Helen Hamilton, Keith Lyon, and Raymond Armour

On behalf of the extended Lyon-Green-Merritt family, we would like to thank the Town of Greenwich Board of Selectmen, State Representative Michael Bocchino, the Conservation Commission, Nancy Dickinson, Christopher Shields, and the rest of the Cemetery Committee of the Town of Greenwich, The Office of the Town Clerk, the Greenwich Preservation Trust, CeCe Saunders, Brian Jones, and the staff of Historical Perspectives, Inc., the Greenwich Historical Society, and the Rye Historical Society for their help over the past four years. A special thank you goes to Josephine Conboy and the Greenwich Preservation Trust who worked hand in hand with State Rep. Michael Bocchino to advocate for a new CT cemetery law that will protect other ancient burial grounds from the descecration our family experienced. Another thank you goes to Jeffrey Bingham Mead who challenged me years ago to research and preserve not only the history of Greenwich, but also to write about a history he knew was important for people to read. Finally, I owe a big thank you, to Eric Fowler, Anne Young, and the Law Department of the Town of Greenwich for dealing with me directly these last two years as it was not an easy thing to do and I admit it.

When the Battle Is Over, I’m going to SING and SHOUT!: We Claim Victory!

They got to keep their driveway. It was never about their driveway or their property for us! NEVER!

We GOT EVERYTHING WE WANTED!!!!

It was all about preserving OUR cemeteries, especially the “Colored Cemetery” section of Byram Cemetery, and making sure all our ancestors would be remembered and properly memorialized. It was about making sure that our ancestors in the “Colored Cemetery” would be able to rest in peace, alongside their kin, after having their section of Byram Cemetery made into someone’s front lawn. It was about making sure our Lyon ancestors’ original intention for the “Colored Cemetery” to exist where it always has been was RESPECTED and given the historic, accurate name it always had. It was about making sure OUR LINEAL RIGHTS as descendants were finally acknowledged. Most importantly, it was about paying tribute to the Native-African presence that has always been in Greenwich and which has always been reflected in the Lyon-Green-Merritts of Color who have the DNA, oral, and written history to back up their Native-African heritage — no one ever had the right to tell us what we always have been. Finally, it was about paying tribute to the history of slavery that was personified in the North which led to our ancestors working together on the Underground Railroad and engaging in the social justice/resistance acts of abolition.

We Were NEVER the PROBLEM/http://www.timidmc.com/shop/

After almost a year of being on the Cemetery battlefield, on August 6th, my 5 cousins and I learned that the judge DENIED The Stewarts their 2nd Motion to Strike us from The Jeffrey M. Stewart et. al. v. The Town of Greenwich et. al. lawsuit. We had been waiting for the day for a judge to read all our documented evidence. Then, on Wednesday, August 8th, we were asked to send a letter indicating our support for the Town of Greenwich’s Stipulation of Settlement as the Now Named 6 defendants. The next day, on August 9th, the Town of Greenwich Board of Selectmen approved the Stipulation of Settlement at 10.42 am. I was at the funeral of my Uncle/Cousin Raymond Armour where I had the honor of announcing the Settlement to my family and to him directly. It will now be sent to the judge. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of this case.

The “Colored Cemetery” is where our Native-African ancestors were buried. Make no mistake, our ancestors ARE BURIED there and have been for centuries. The Stewarts’ constant and continued denial of our ancestors physical presence in the “Colored Cemetery,” speaks volumes about THEM more than it does our ancestors. In my blogposts on my Green-Merritt ancestors and on the now resurrected, hidden historic community of HangrootI documented our ancestors lives in Greenwich, CT and noted how they were the ONLY family of Native-African descent to live next to their former slave owners and slave owner descendants for over a century. In fact, they made up the majority of People of Color in Greenwich in the mid-1800s. DNA also links us to the Lyon, Merritt, and Green families. But, The Stewarts want others to believe that not one of our ancestors were ever buried there??? Please…

The “Colored Cemetery” at Byram Cemetery

In my many blogposts on the “Byram African-American Cemetery,” I documented how our extended family felt upon learning about the desecration of our “Colored Cemetery.” We have been waiting for justice to be served for four years. We always KNEW The Stewarts didn’t have a case. I mean how do you abide by a Cease and Desist Order in 2014 after you desecrate the “Colored Cemetery,” then invite the descendants of people buried there into your home to discuss putting a plaque on tree in honor of the “Colored Cemetery,” and then wait over a year to file a lawsuit that denies the existence of the same cemetery? We won’t even discuss my epic 277-page response, three 1890 contemporary newspaper articles mentioning the first desecration of the “Colored Cemetery,” the 1901 dated, time-stamped, and accepted copy by the Town of Greenwich Clerk map, Historical Perspectives, Inc.’s documentary study, or all the letters written by my cousins which were submitted to the court as proof. If you are interested, you can read all the evidence here  (Docket#: FST-CV-17-6033549-S).

The Privileged Don’t Pay the Price, But Others Have to…

A lawyer friend asked me recently how I felt about the process that led to the settlement and what were the things that troubled or concerned me about the settlement? I told him that I did what I had to do to protect the rights of my ancestors to rest in peace and not be erased from history. That being said, while I am happy about the outcome, I do feel that the Stewarts and the Town are now able to just walk away and both entities act like everything was done for “due diligence” and can say “let bygones be bygones.” They can easily both “go home with footballs,” as Attorney Marcus stated in the Greenwich Time newspaper on 8/11/18. Obviously, they never considered the racial and class dynamics that were being perpetuated in prime time that were no different from what my ancestors experienced. They had the power once again to deny us everything and that was not lost on us —not for one second, one minute, one hour, one day, one year nor for centuries.

Meanwhile, I am battle-worn, battle-scared, and suffering from PSTD feeling like I was forced against my will to run thousands of miles to the top of a mountain and now some people feel that I should run down the other side of the mountain immediately when I am physically and mentally exhausted. No, that is not going to happen. I need time to deal with the past two years and especially the past 8 months. I don’t have the luxury to just walk away now, as others apparently do, because my ancestors CHOSE ME to be their unified voice to articulate their pain, loud and clear, with my head held high…just like they showed us all when they walked towards freedom. It was a burden I willingly carried and I did it to protect my ancestor’s burial site and elucidate their RADIANT lived history that should NEVER be erased. I need time to breathe clean air again and re-charge my batteries. I would like to think that I’m like Timex and can take a lickin and keep on tickin,” but I’m not. Vegatron does have her limits. Don’t worry. I will be just fine in the end. His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.

Both The Stewarts and The Town’s Law Department put my family under tremendous, unnecessary stress. The Stewarts knew it was a cemetery from the beginning. The Town did not follow proper procedures in acquiring abandoned cemeteries. Both entities threw The Stewarts’ wealth in our faces like hot bricks just out the fire. The “no disparagement clause” in the settlement is for their mutual benefit. At no point, have they even offered an apology to my family —not privately, not publicly. Though that is something I know they would never do and I am not holding my breath for, it’s those little things that sometimes matter most.

My family and I worked out our issues with The Town in early April and this has allowed us to move forward. From the beginning until present, The Town said, and now will do, what they said they would do when they actually acquired the abandoned cemeteries. Our family will be active partners with the Town going forward to create a historic “Colored Cemetery”. However, The Stewarts are another matter. As of today, there will be NO Kumbaya moment. I want nothing to do with people who have no integrity and show no respect for the sacred resting spaces of others.

There are NO Statutes of Limitation on Historic Trauma/Historic Erasure

Desecrating an ancestral burial ground for greed is traumatic. Arguing that we must excavate our ancestors to satisfy that greed and morbid curiosity is traumatic. Denying that our ancestors ever existed and trying to erase their physical presence in this world is traumatic. It is traumatic because you KNOW that slavery was never designed for Native-and African-American family reunification. It was designed to sever the ties that bind. And then, here we were in 2016 and just as we located our oldest ancestors, we found out that the couple, who made our ancient burial ground into their front lawn, tried to use us against The Town. You realize that had you not had Guardian Angels in Greenwich who immedately notified you of The Town’s actions, they would have gone with the photos you sent them, selfies included, with the letter you unknowingly wrote in their favor to the Town of Greenwich meeting on 9/22/2016 and act like they had secured the approval of the descedants of the enslaved/formerly enslaved buried there. Duplicity in action!

I strongly feel that The Stewarts need to be held accountable for their actions that led them to desecrate our burial ground. Two years ago, I wrote that no one should expect us to be neutral on this matter and we meant it. Since Section 34 was part of their lawsuit— though the “Colored Cemetery” has been in existence for centuries as part of Byram Cemetery — and is now forever etched in our collective memory, we will continue to tell the truth that their lawsuit was an obvious land grab to increase the value of their waterfront property. It was also a racist lawsuit since they could have argued their case without mentioning race in the first place. They are the ones who DECIDED to go there and WENT there! We are the ones who always told the truth.

 

Jeffrey M. Stewart et. al. v. The Town of Greenwich 

 

August 28, 2016 Is The Day Our Ancestors Decided This Very Outcome

The Stewarts made several wrong assumptions back in 2016. 1) That we would not know anyone in Greenwich because we didn’t live there. 2) That we weren’t educated and couldn’t detect the gaping holes in their story on Day1; 3) That we would never be united with our Lyon cousins. Our ancestors, on both sides of the color line, decided that would not be the case. They chose me on that day to repeatedly ask the all important question which was “If no one owns the land as you indicated by doing a deed history search, then why are you following a Cease and Desist letter?” Our ancestors chose my cousins Pat and Eddie to bare witness on that particular day, too.

I believe in many things. I believe that that my God is an awesome God who loves everyone unconditionaly. I believe that in my Father’s house there are many mansions. I believe that my ancestors are with me wherever I go. I believe that death is but a necessary happenstance. I believe that there is no shelf-life in the Hereafter and that, as descedants of originally enslaved people, family reunification happens automatically upon transitioning — even if it never happened during our years on Earth. I believe in the power of God to direct my path. Like Assata Shakur, ”I believe in living, I believe in birth, I believe in the sweat of love and in the fire of truth and I believe that a lost ship, steered by tired, sea sick sailors, can still be guided home to port.” On August 28, 2016, I KNOW my ancestors guided me to THEIR ancient burial ground here on Earth to help guarantee that our side of the family would be represented at the September 22,2016 meeting alongside our Lyon kin.  A family UNITED will never be DEFEATED. My cousins and I will continue to make them proud.
We are the Lyon-Green-Merritts

 

My Research Is My Therapy: Next Up On the Agenda

I will be contiinuing my research to get state and federal recognition for the Green-Twachtman House — the house my 3rd great-grandfather built in 1845 at 30 Round Hill Road (Hangroot) —as a confirmed UGRR site. My 3rd great-grandmother, Mary Johnson, was a self-emancipated woman who arrived in Greenwich, CT in the mid-1820s from Virginia.

In Closing…His Eye Is On the Sparrow and I KNOW he watches ME

Let it be forever known that I am the daughter of Joyce Greene Vega, the granddaughter of Richard W. Greene, Jr., the great-granddaughter of Richard W. Green, Sr., the great-great granddaughter of George E. Green, the great-great-great granddaughter of Allen and Mary Green, and the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Anthony and Peg Green.

I’m going to leave this Walter Hawkins video right here so I can go back to singing amd shouting! We got the VICTORY! 

 
 
#DaughterOfJoyceGreeneVega #BaptizedInMessiahBaptistChurchByRevMichaelWayneWalkerIn1981 #80LegionParkwayBrocktonMA

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